(WASILLA, Alaska) "Remember, you're at the bottom of the food chain when you're up here."
With those less-than-comforting final words from our hotel clerk, I set off with two other embedded reporters covering the Palin campaign to get a taste of Alaska on a day when the governor held no public events. A day off on the trail usually consists of filing expense reports, doing laundry and catching up on sleep, but we reasoned that all that stuff could be taken care of the next time we roll through Ohio or New Hampshire. We wanted to get a sense of this exotic place that the vice-presidential candidate calls home.
Bears were what we were really wanted to see. But after getting lost on the winding roads leading into the mountains and nearly jumping through the car windshield when I mistook a golden retriever for a grizzly, the three of us conceded that the closest we were going to get to a real bear was the stuffed kodiac that loomed over shoppers in the local hunting equipment store.
We decided that if we weren't going to see bears in the wild, we'd have to settle for a different large mammal. So we headed to the nearby town of Palmer, paid six dollars apiece and walked through a tiny hut that looked like it was straight out of the North Pole.
On the other side was a real-life version of Santa's workshop. No, there weren't elves. But there were reindeer—a lot of them, in fact, and we were allowed to get right in their personal space to feed and pet their coarse fur.
CNN's Peter Hamby quickly made a new friend. If only the reindeer had known that Hamby devoured one of his brethren for breakfast that very morning.
There were more than 20 reindeer on the premises, but one of them was particularly ravenous. At first, he patiently waited for us to get the food out of our pockets before lapping it up with his brown tongue. But he soon became prickly with Fox News' Shushannah Walshe and tried to take matters into his own hands.
Shush has gone toe to toe with some tough politicians in her day but none of them ever threatened her with four-foot long antlers.
Sarah Palin is so popular in the Wasilla area that everyone seems to be on a first-name basis with the governor. At the farm, they even named a reindeer after her: Denali Palin.
Though the farm was dominated by reindeer, there were also some other large furry animals who called it their home. My brash demeanor may not give it away, but I was more than a little concerned about the sturdiness of that fence.